In the 2015 summer term, sleep was lost, report cards were given out and tears were shed. It was a difficult year for me. I was looking forward to a relaxing summer holiday … and then I remembered I signed up for SCMP's Young Post cadet programme.
One look at the schedule dulled my spirits. I am not a fan of waking up at 8.30am on a hot summer day, but despite my limbs protesting, I took the shuttle bus from Sai Wan Ho to the Morning Post Centre in Tai Po.
The main SCMP office is located way out in the New Territories because SCMP needs a huge space to house the printing press. Plus, it needs to be in a remote area because it's really noisy when the printing press starts churning out hundreds of thousands of newspapers. When I arrived at the office, the sheer size of the building overwhelmed me.
The outside of the building was grey, but it was more colourful inside. The first thing I noticed about the office was the peculiar shape of the different levels. Each floor had a huge rectangular opening in the middle, with a bridge across it, so people could go from one side to the other. It kind of looked like something from the film Inception.
I was then led into the Suzhou room, which would be my home for the next two weeks. There, I met my fellow cadets. They all seemed friendly, and before long, we were chatting like old-timers. But this light-hearted atmosphere didn't last long.
Susan Ramsay, the editor of Young Post, came in to talk to us about writing for a newspaper and it was time to get serious. Her talk really gave me an understanding of journalism and opened my eyes to the different aspects of a newspaper, like how to convey information as a reporter, how to behave at events, and what we need to do to create a decent news article.
There was also some basic journalism jargon to understand, such as "anchor", which means the important story at the bottom of a page. The "splash" is the main story on the front cover and "copy" means text. I felt a sense of professionalism as I learned the meanings of these words.
The part that was most emphasised was picture selection - I didn't realise being a reporter means you have to take good photos as well! Susan taught us how to engage the subject while taking a photo, and showed us several other sites to get good pictures from: Merlin (the SCMP photo database) or Shutterstock.
Another thing I picked up during the briefing was how to use quotes effectively. I have seen quotes in newspapers, but I never really put much thought into them. Quotes can enliven a story, but an irrelevant or obvious quote can backfire and make the passage uninteresting.
The briefing session took almost two hours, but afterwards I felt enriched and more confident about the cadet programme.
After lunch, we went back to our room to prepare for the next day's editorial meeting - we had to write nutgraphs. These are short paragraphs that explain the idea behind each story you pitch to the editor.
I was delighted that I could quickly put the skills I learned at the briefing to the test. I summed up my ideas into short paragraphs, crossed my fingers and hoped that they would all be approved by the editor.